Happy Birthday, Marlene!

Happy birthday, Marlene Dietrich! 

(27 December 1901)

Marlene Google Doodle

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[Classic Movie History Project 2016] The Emancipation of Ossi Oswalda: I Don’t Want to Be a Man (1918)

This is my entry in the Classic Movie History Project, hosted by Movies Silently, Once Upon a Screen, and Silver Screenings.

Classic Movie History Project

Classic Movie History Project

Ossi gets emancipated

Ossi gets emancipated

THE EMANCIPATION OF OSSI OSWALDA: I DON’T WANT TO BE A MAN (1918)

“You are a dream; I hope I never meet you.”-Sylvia Plath

Reliable biographical information on German silent movie actress Ossi Oswalda is scant. Even worse, the crumbs that do exist often conflict with one another. To be blunt: facts are on particularly unreliable ground here. Matters are further gummed up by the early-film habit of naming characters after their actors. Ossi was often Ossi, or, to add variety, Össi. Who was who was who? Does it matter? Fortunately, since the focus of this essay is on her incredible comedic performance in I Don’t Want to Be a Man (1918), I’m not particularly concerned with the trajectory of her personal life, or to what extent her true personality coursed through the veins of her screen selves. Even though her off-screen circumstances, opportunities, and choices undoubtedly affected her career, an understanding of them is not a fundamental component to enjoying her remarkable gifts.  It would benefit us to take a page from her delightful films, and, at least for the duration of this piece, leave the logical, workaday world behind in favor of the magical hinterland of the imagination. Let’s travel to a place, then, where time and reality don’t matter, where Our Heroine, in her various fictional disguises, is forever brave, scampish, and determined to grab every experience within her reach. 

Ossi Oswalda, circa 1917

Ossi Oswalda, circa 1917

To sheltered twenty-first century viewers, Ossi Oswalda can seem like a young woman ahead of her time. Her screen characters embrace values that we chauvinistically claim as exclusively ours: they are full of physical courage and a feminist resolve to be treated as equal to all comers, have spicy senses of humor, are confidently attractive, take chances as if they were made for risk, and rebel against the mundane as a matter of principle.

Silent film fans know better. Continue reading

[The Great Villain Blogathon] Blanche Fury: How the Beautiful People Dress

Blanche Fury certainly knew how to dress. She was always on point, whatever the  circumstance: from poor relation to lady of the manor, sexy adulteress to “grieving” widow, she had it going on. Her lover, Philip Thorn, was right there with her, looking fine. Fine. Here are some of the occasions when Blanche and/or Philip looked better than we ever could:

 

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♦Charlotte is our Fashion correspondent. Her dream closet consists of the collective wardrobes of 796 films.

The Great Villain Blogathon

Glorious, Glorious Gloria the Birthday Girl!

On 27th March, 1899, a baby girl was born in the great Midwestern metropolis of Chicago. She grew up to conquer the world, armed with an arsenal of talent, wit, style, unusual beauty, and a staggering amount of well-justified ambition and self-confidence.

The camera loved her. Clothes loved her.

Fans loved her.

We still do.

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Five (of the Many) Faces of Gloria

Magnificent:

Gloria Swanson in Male and Female, 1919

Gloria Swanson in Male and Female, 1919.

Demure:

Gloria Swanson, Motion Picture Classic (1920)

Gloria Swanson, Motion Picture Classic (1920).

Determined:

Gloria Swanson by Nickolas Muray, 1922

Gloria Swanson by Nickolas Muray, 1922.

Edgy:

Gloria Swanson in The Impossible Mrs. Bellew, 1922

Gloria Swanson in The Impossible Mrs. Bellew, 1922.

Timeless:

Gloria Swanson, Stars of the Photoplay (1924)

Gloria Swanson, Stars of the Photoplay (1924).

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Happy birthday to the one, the only, the superb Gloria Swanson!

Until next time…

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◊Effie is our Film correspondent. She (shockingly!) prefers House Peters’ profile to John Barrymore’s!

[The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon] Design for Living: Part Two-Gilda’s Tips for Dressing Like a Successful Commercial Artist

Gilda’s Tips for Dressing Like a Successful Commercial Artist

Charlotte

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Have you always wanted to dress like a successful 1930s commercial artist? Yes? You’re in luck! No? Fortunately, these ensembles transcend time and career. Gilda Farrell, successful American commercial artist and delightfully grown-up woman, knew how to keep it chic at all times. Let’s see if we can follow her lead down the road to professional acclaim and (if it suits us) radical romance.

#1-Takin’ the Train to Glamourville

Opening sequence: Meet Chic

Opening sequence: This is how you meet chic cute

Gilda proves that, no matter what your destination, dressing well is all in the details. Beret? Matching bow? Check, double-check. A simple skirt and artful blouse complete her comfortable and stylish traveling outfit. It’s best to be prepared, because you never know who you’ll meet when you least expect it…

#2-Go Big or Go Home

Decision Time Dress

Decision Time Dress

Those shoulders! That bow! Those…criss-cross ribbon things! When an important decision looms ahead, what better way to arm yourself with confidence than by dressing with sartorial bravado? Napoleon would agree.

#3-Mothers Can Be Avant-garde, too

Avant-garde Mother of the Arts

Avant-garde Mother of the Arts

When you are a Mother of the Arts, it’s okay to stand out from the crowd.  Having a strong style makes it easier to focus on the artists you are helping with your keen wisdom and cutting insights. Or something. A dress with an enormous Pilgrim collar and cuffs isn’t for everyone, but Gilda pulls it off. We can all learn from her nonchalance.

#4-Dressing for the Morning After

Morning After Confection

Morning After Confection

No matter what went down the night before, always dress with exceptional elegance for breakfast. Sometimes the most unexpected people show up at your door whilst you are canoodling over coffee. A decadent frock hides your surprise better than a tattered robe.

#5-Going to the Chapel…of Security

Wedding Dress

Wedding Dress

No matter how your marriage turns out, you’ll always have your wedding dress. Wear what makes you happy, and make sure that it fits like a dream. That way, you’ll have at least one good memory from you big day!

#6-Shimmery Shimmery Shake

Shimmery Dress

Shimmery Dress with Tuxedo Bookends

Own one dress that makes you feel like a movie star. Bonus points if it sparkles! Everyone looks good with a little shine, and even better when they radiate happiness. Having a wardrobe designed by the great Travis Banton doesn’t hurt, either.

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♦Charlotte is our Fashion correspondent. Her dream closet consists of the collective wardrobes of 796 films.

 Up next: In Part Three of our review, Frances ponders the pros and cons of going bohemian.

The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon

The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon

The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon